I’ve had the pleasure of having a chat to Jokay Wollongong in RL on one occasion, and hope to again in the future. I was more than aware of her work in Second Life prior to that catch-up, but only then did I realise her passion for the work she does. Sure, it’s part of making a living but it’s also a lot more than that – she is fundamentally driven by seeing the outcomes virtual environments can provide in education. In that, she’s no different to hundreds of other educators in Second Life.
That’s primarily why I’m gobsmacked and somewhat angry at a move Linden Lab has made, as reported by Tateru Nino over at Massively. Essentially, Jokay’s use of the URL sleducation.wikispaces.com has come under attack by Linden Lab, who’ve asked Jokay to take it down because of the use of ‘sl’ in the URL. As Tateru Nino outlines:
Under the Lanham Act, which controls the registration, usage and control of trademarks in the United States of America, Wollongong’s usage appears to fall squarely under nominative fair use, and thus legally unable to be counted as dilution of Linden Lab’s trademark which finally saw registration on 22 September this year.
Aside from the questionable legalities, I just can’t get past the apparent futility of issuing a takedown notice for a wiki site devoted to showcasing some of Second Life’s main strengths. Sure, I can understand protecting a trademark makes exceptions difficult, but this has the whiff of a scorched earth policy. To that end, I’ve contacted the ever-helpful Pete at Linden Lab to get his thoughts on four specific questions:
1. What was the impetus for Linden Lab tackling Jokay’s Wiki specifically?
2. Does Linden Lab see it’s in its interest to issue takedown notices to educators showcasing one of SL’s strengths (i.e. it’s power as en educational platform)?
3. How much confidence should educators have that further trademarks won’t be registered, leading to a further change of landscape that can’t be forseen?
4. How would Linden Lab respond to claims that actions like this provide further motivation for people to move to other grids or platforms outside of SL?
Linden Lab deserve full right of reply and they’ll certainly get it (Update 2: you can read their response here). My guess is that the takedown was instigated by Linden Lab legal people without a lot of consultation with others. Time will tell. I also had a brief chat to Jokay in-world late this evening, and although insistent on keeping positive about things, she made one key point that sums up the senselessness of this decision:
I’ll also be working to consolidate and publish my research on other platforms and will seek to diversify the wiki. In the end all of this only strengthens my desire to establish presence in a broader range of virtual worlds, and we’ll be working on that over the coming months.
Then again, expanding the outcomes derived from Second Life into other platforms can only be a good thing. Perhaps it’s been Linden Lab’s intention the whole time
Update: Jokay has posted her thoughts in more detail on her blog